Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Watchmen

You may know - or perhaps not - that Memorial Day (May 29, 2017) was the 100th anniversary of the birth of President John F. Kennedy.  As I presume you have heard by now, President Kennedy died conspicuously short of blowing out the candles on his 100th birthday cake.  If that news somehow has caught you unaware, then ask Siri to "use the Google" to do some research into the subject for you.  

On what turned out to be the final day of his life, President Kennedy was scheduled to deliver a luncheon speech at the Dallas Citizens Council. It is a speech of course he never delivered as he was murdered while driving through Dealey Plaza on his way to the engagement.  His speech, however, having been written, has lived on these past fifty-four years. 

In light of the present, toxic state of American politics and - more significantly - American governance (or lack thereof) it is nothing short of extraordinary to read what was on Mr. Kennedy's mind on that November morning more than one half century ago.  Among the things he intended to tell his audience was that no simple solutions existed for the problems then and there facing America.  "I want to discuss with you today the status of our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship.  For this Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained.  Nor are they quickly and simply explained.  There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice."  In other words, resist the temptation to view the world you inhabit in black-and-white.  It is, in fact, many, many subtle shades of gray. To borrow a line from the great David Byrne, "Same as it ever was.  Same as it ever was."

I remain fascinated by those who this past November voted for a petulant, whiny, paranoid, charlatan who just happens to be a senior citizen with the expectation (I opted for a less judgmental word than delusion) that irrespective of the person he has repeatedly shown himself to be in the first seven decades of his life, he could somehow undergo an epiphany upon taking the Presidential oath. Actually, in fairness to the Cheeto-in-Chief, for whom I have no love and even less respect, the fact that he has remained faithful to his code is not a poor reflection on him.  He is human, after all.

I have long been fascinated by those who believe that human beings are wired in such a way as to be capable of great, life-altering, profound change.  Respectfully, I disagree.  Human beings are animals.  Animals are creatures of habit.  When push comes to shove, humans rely upon known behavior, ignoring whether prior reliance upon it resulted in a net positive or net negative outcome.  A fairly bright human, Albert Einstein, once observed that insanity is nothing more than doing the same thing over and over in expectation of a different result.  We are who we are.

On that terrible November day, President Kennedy intended to tell the luncheon gathering that:

Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad
than she is at home.  Only an America which practices what it preaches 
about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice
affects our future.  Only an America which has fully educated its citizens
is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden 
dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing
and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses 
of freedom while demonstrating to all concerned 
the opportunities of our system and society. 

We in this country, in this generation, are - by destiny rather than by choice-
the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we
may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our
strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time
and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must
always underlie our strength.  For as was written long ago: 
'except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.'

My first-born grandchild, Maggie, is twenty-eight days old today.  Lest anyone think for a goddamn minute that her Pop Pop intends to have 'waketh but in vain', I assure you that you are mistaken.  Man a post, if you have too have a protection-worthy future.  

I certainly fucking shall. 


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